Archives for category: Book excerpts

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“The house became full of love. Aureliano expressed it in poetry that had no beginning and no end. He would write it on the harsh pieces of parchment that Melquiades gave him, on the bathroom walls, on the skin of his arms, and in all of it Remedios would appear transfigured: Remedios in the soporific air of two in the afternoon, Remedios in the soft breath of the roses, Remedios in the water-clock secrets of the moths, Remedios in the steaming morning bread, Remedios everywhere and Remedios forever…”

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ,
One Hundred Years of Solitude

PHOTO: Mya Jamila, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Find One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at Amazon.com.

Image“The good days, the fat days, page upon page of manuscript; prosperous days, something to say…the pages mounted and I was happy. Fabulous days, the rent paid, still fifty dollars in my wallet, nothing to do all day and night but write and think of writing; ah, such sweet days, to see it grow, to worry for it, myself, my book, my words, maybe important, maybe timeless, but mine nevertheless, the indomitable Arturo Bandini, already deep into his first novel. “

From Chapter Sixteen of Ask the Dust a novel by John Fante, originally published in 1939.

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EX-CAR (Excerpt)

Story by J. Robert Lennon

We got rid of our old car and immediately regretted our decision. It wasn’t that our new car was unsatisfactory; in fact it ran more smoothly and reliably than the old one ever had, even when it was new. But the old car had acquired a “personality” assembled from memories of our lives during the time we owned it, and we found that we missed it deeply…

A few months after selling the car, we saw it in the parking lot of a restaurant in a nearby town. Our initial reaction was to deny that it was our old car, as the restaurant was of a decidedly inferior quality and, obviously, a place our car would never go. But this car was dented in the same place as our ex-car, and two of the six letters of its chrome nameplate were broken off as they had been on ours, and so there could be no doubt.

 …we had to go into the restaurant and ask the new owner if we could buy it back. He thought it over while he chewed on a fish stick, then told us we could have it back for twice the price he bought it for.

 We gave the offer serious consideration, but ultimately decided to reject it. On the way across the parking lot I opened up the hatchback of our ex-car and stole the jack. I don’t know why I did this; it certainly wasn’t in the best interest of our ex-car; but I still have the jack and have not seen the old car again. 

Photo: Gordon Thomson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“Ex-Car” by J. Robert Lennon is included in Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes by J. Robert LennonTIME OUT (London) called the collection “Unsettlingly brilliant.” Find the book at Amazon.com.

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“Shorty looks up at the palm tree. It is a male tree. Four clay pots cluster at the top, collecting wine. The tree is almost bare, except for a swathe of fresh, green fronds ringed by aging brown leaves — a scraggly, thin, baby crow, with no down yet on its back. Kandamoopan is heartless when it comes to male trees. He chops at the fronds, till the tree is almost barren. But with female trees, he is different. He is tender, solicitous, as if they are pregnant women given to his care. He lets their fronds grow, until they form a huge whirl. Rarely does he take out his knife, he is happy to let it rest in its rusty holder.”

From Seasons of the Palm by PERUMAL MURUGAN

Set in rural India, Seasons of the Palm tells the story of Shorty, a young dalit (untouchable) farm hand. The author (Perumal Murugan) — who was born into a dominant caste and writes as a critical insider — has  great empathy for his protagonist, who  alternates between a harsh existence in the outer world and a happy life in his dream world.

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My life was an arc between darkness and irradiated clarity, an unpredictable and brutal journey. I felt as if I were a stranger to this earth. No, not merely this collection of angles, streets and alleys named Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles. I was estranged not from a particular season or region, a climate or a barrio, but from the planet itself. I stood motionless on my front lawn, humbled by sun, wind or fog, a passing sparrow. I heard the sighs of trees in their inviolate dominion where the sky is pearl, glazed, a mesa of puffy clouds tracked by wild gulls that could if they chose, shriek your name and the hour and latitude of your birth. I thought all women lived like this, in a torment of concurrencies.”

KATE BRAVERMAN, Palm Latitudes

Painting: ”En Vakker Dag” (“A Beautiful Day”) by Isblahblah, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.” JACK KEROUAC, On the Road

Photo: Sunset MagazineALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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May 27, 2012 marked the 75th anniversary of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Renowned the world over as a masterpiece of art and engineering, the Golden Gate ushers 120,000 cars to their destinations each day.

In a 1987 newspaper column, journalist Herb Caen described the Golden Gate this way: “The mystical structure, with its perfect amalgam of delicacy and power, exerts an uncanny effect. Its efficiency cannot conceal the artistry. There is heart there, and soul. It is an object to be contemplated for hours.” 

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“…mint, mint, everything smelling of mint, and one fine old tree that I loved to sit under on those cool perfect starry California October nights unmatched anywhere in the world.” JACK KEROUAC, The Dharma Bums

Photo: “Lake Almanor, Northern California” by Bernie DeChant, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“In the middle of the night, I got up because I couldn’t sleep…and examined the L.A. night. What brutal, hot, siren-whining nights they are! Right across the street there was trouble. An old rickety rundown rooming house was the scene of some kind of tragedy. The cruiser was pulled up below and the cops were questioning an old man with gray hair. Sobbings came from within. I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon. I never felt sadder in my life. L.A. is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets god-awful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. L.A. is a jungle.”

From Chapter 13, On the Road by JACK KEROUAC (originally published in 1957)

Photo: Skid Row, Los Angeles, 1955. (From the Los Angeles ExaminerNegatives Collection, 1950-1961. Digitally reproduced by the University of Southern California Digital Archive. More information here.)

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Jon took us up to see the hotel. It looked authentic. The barflies lived there. The bar was downstairs. We stood and looked at it…It was painted grey as so many of those places were. The torn shades. The table and the chair. The refrigerator thick with coats of dirt. And the poor sagging bed…I was a little sad that I wasn’t young and doing it all over again, drinking and fighting and playing with words. When you’re young you can really take a battering. Food didn’t matter. What mattered was drinking and sitting at the machine. I must have been crazy but there are many kinds of crazy and some are quite delightful. I starved so that I could have time to write. That just isn’t done much anymore. Looking at that table I saw myself sitting there again. I’d been crazy and I knew it and I didn’t care.

From Chapter 28 of Hollywood by CHARLES BUKOWSKI

Photo: “City street scene with neon signs of bars, hotels and theatres along skid row in Los Angeles, California, 1965.” Los Angeles Timesphotographic archive, UCLA Library. Copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library. More information here.

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“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

RAY BRADBURYThe October Country